While that's a process many dirt racers go through on a weekly basis it was the second item that has kind of stuck with me. I was told by more than one veteran that they run the race in their heads, trying to imagine being in the car and racing. They look for the best place to enter the corner and the best place to exit. They try to imagine the line they want to run.

This visualization technique helps to increase both focus and preparation prior to the race. In fact, a major university completed a study proving that this technique is often employed by elite athletes in preparation for major events, and it works. Tiger Woods visualizes sinking the 40 foot Masters-winning putt, Lance Armstrong visualizes winning the Tour de France, and Serena Williams visualizes beating her rival to win Wimbledon. Visualization can work for short-track racers like us as well. So next time you head to the track, give it a try.

Break It Down You might think that once you are ready to race, have your line in mind, and are strapped into the car that driver setup is finished. You're wrong, it's just beginning. When I went to Mark Bush's Racewise Chassis Setup School (see Circle Track, July '08), one of the things we learned was to break down the entire night at the track. Here's basically how it was done. Keep in mind that I'm basing this on our typical Saturday night Dirt Late Model racing. Depending on what you run the night's events could be different, but you'll get the idea.

First Event (Typically): Hot Laps You've looked the track over and run laps in your head. Now it's time to actually run the car and make sure your line works and the car is set up correctly. The most important part of hot laps is to find the fastest line around the track and the best setup for time trials/qualifying (or your next event). Bush says that many drivers will get out on the track for hot laps and start thinking about the feature or the last 10 laps of the feature and that will impair their judgment. When you run hot laps, only think about finding the fastest line and then adjusting for the next event.

Second Event: Time Trials/Qualifying Most of the time we only run two laps for time trials and we all know how important this event is. These need to be the two fastest laps you run all night, right? A lot of us think this way and that will actually hurt you. Avid readers of Circle Track will have read this before and Bush stresses that if you slow this event down, you will go faster. Now everyone knows you can't slow time, and if you don't roll on the track when you are being told to by the officials, you'll have problems. But that's not what we mean when we say slow down.

So what do we mean? Slow the event down in your mind. Many of us think we only have two laps to go as fast as possible to qualify up front. This way of thinking is overwhelming and makes it sound like such a short event. But it doesn't have to be.

The next time you run time trials look at it this way. You actually have eight turns, two straightaways, and four middle turns to negotiate. This way of thinking is a lot longer of an event than two laps, and isn't nearly as stressful. Once you take the track, run one step at a time. Concentrate on hitting your marks at each point of the track. The most important part of this event is to hit your marks and run a fast line. Only think about the next section of track you have to negotiate.

If you are coming to the corner, focus only on the entry ahead of you and then the fastest way through the middle and where you want to exit the corner. If you are thinking about how to exit Turn 4 and you're trying to enter Turn 1, chances are you'll miss your entry and that will hurt you and your entire lap time. It's more important to run the perfect line at 3/4 throttle than run Turn 1 wide open only to screw it up. Remember, if you miss your line or don't set fast time, you still have heat races and possibly B-mains or last chance races to make the feature or A-main.